ZIMBABWE @37 independence celebrations held this Tuesday at National Sports Stadium in Harare were definitely fully subscribed.
At face value, it speaks to President Robert Mugabe’s unfading ability to retain the loyalty and love of impoverished citizens but a closer look proves there are 101 other reasons why the stadium was full to the brim.
Hordes of food vendors were among the crowd, hoping to cash-in on the event.
Banana vendor Cain Chimuseve said, “Today we have made money unlike in previous years. I am happy all my bananas are gone, I wish I had brought more. I can see that my peers are happy too.”
This year’s theme was Zimbabwe @37, embracing ease of doing business for socio-economic development.
“These days we are entrepreneurs, that’s empowerment which President Mugabe talks about. Business is slow for me but I can’t be compared to someone who was home,” said Darlington Kupfuma, a photographer.
Elton Sanyamahwe was elated about the mass displays by the police and prison departments.
Thousands like him attended the event to witness the parachute landings, music and dance, drum majorettes and dogs displays and they left the stadium immediately after the bands packed.
As they left, police manning the gates had trouble managing impatient football fans who were eager to join others inside for the free independence cup final match which pitied Dynamos and Highlanders.
Although stadium was half empty when the displays ended, it filled-up up again for the soccer match which featured $15 000 prize money for the winning team. Dynamos pocketed the cash after winning 4-3 after penalties.
Armed forces service personnel and government officials take a significant number seats in the 60,000-seater stadium. Reports indicate that vendors from markets such as Mupedzanhamo and Glenview 8 are also obligated to attend such functions or risk losing their market stalls.
Mugabe has managed to maintain his vice grip on power since independence in 1980, winning in successive contentious elections.
While his critics attribute his long stay in power to patronage and other unsavoury methods, the 93-year-old believes the electorate still love him because of his unwavering stance on self-determination and black economic empowerment.
The veteran leader refuses to retire, claiming that no one else in his Zanu PF party can do the job. He has since been confirmed as the ruling party’s presidential candidate in fresh elections due next year.